Research

Unwrap that candy bar carefully – it’ll taste better

Sure, some tasty foods are laden with sugar, salt and fat, but scientists have discovered that what we do right before consuming our favourites can increase how enjoyable they are. Researchers at the University of Minnesota have proven that rituals, ranging from lighting candles on a birthday cake to putting extra care into unwrapping your candy bar, all impact our consumption experience.

Chocolate bar

Chocolate Unwrapped (photo by EverJean on Flickr)

In their quest for data, scientists rounded up many participants, and even more chocolate bars. In the first experiment, some volunteers were asked to unwrap and consume their chocolate bars in a specific manner. The result? Those who followed systematic steps experienced more flavour. Even more intriguing is that those same people estimated the candy bar to have a higher dollar value and to be more worthy of savouring.

In an interesting twist, it was also discovered that the enjoyment only increased for participants if they were the ones performing the ritual. For instance, watching someone prepare a glass of lemonade for you won’t result in the same satisfaction as that derived from preparing it yourself prior to consumption.

So what impact do these findings have on our everyday lives? Well, aside from making every bite more savoury, it reminds of of how common rituals enhance our experiences. Turns out giving thanks before a big meal can help mitigate the craziness of a family gathering. Now I’m willing to toast to that.

About the author

Melissa Carmen Cheung, PhD

Passionate about sharing science with the public in a fun and accessible way, Melissa is a Medical Communications professional who earned her Ph.D. in Pharmaceutical Sciences from the University of Toronto. Though her research focused on the design of novel cancer therapeutics, Melissa is intrigued by all facets of science. Her goal in life is to captivate people with the same excitement she feels for science.